John Ashbery, Non-Performer?: Prosody and Voice Studies

Lecture | April 8 | 5-6:30 p.m. | Barrows Hall, D-Lab Convening Room


 Digital Humanities Lab

How and much might a poet’s reading style change over time, and how can it be studied? What role might be played by venue, media format, poetic content, authorship, audience, and so on?

Considering theoretical assumptions and empirical approaches in voice studies, this talk explores these questions through the unlikely example of John Ashbery, a poet with a reputation as a non-performative reader of poetry. The corpus analyzed is recordings from the extensive collection of the 92nd Street Y’s Poetry Center in New York, where Ashbery read 19 times, from 1952 to 2014—as the star attraction, and with poets Barbara Guest, Mark Ford, Jack Gilbert, John Hollander, J.D. McClatchy, W.S. Merwin, Kenneth Koch, Ron Padgett, James Schuyler, and with painters Jane Freilicher and Larry Rivers, and in tributes to other poets, including Frank O’Hara, Elizabeth Bishop, and Marianne Moore.